South America starts with Argentina
, a photo by MediumTall on Flickr.
As you can see from the past few posts I put together a few plans to snowboard the first few weeks of sabbatical but these where just warm ups to the big adventure my lovely wife and I had in mind. Ever since I can remember I’ve heard about the amazing mountains in South America. I’ve seen amazing photos of The Andes with it’s mountains that rise over 22,000ft into the stratosphere and I’ve been especial intrigued by the Patagonia region with its epic glaciers! So our 25 day tour of South America started with us flying 20 hours to El Calafate, a small town on the coast of Lake Argentina in the heart of Patagonia.
Our first day started early with a day long boat tour of Lake Argentina that gave us majestic view of Perito Moreno Glacier, Upsala Glacier, and Spegazzini Glacier. Along the way we saw huge ice bergs from massive chucks of glacier ice that have fallen into the water. At the face of the Spegazzini and Perito Moreno we watched huge chucks of ice calving into the lake.
The second day we mini treked the Perito Moreno Glacier. Another early day were we caught a shuttle to get on a bus that drove us to the doc where boarded a boat to cruise over to the edge of of the massive glacier. We joined a tour of about a dozen people where we received a good orientation for our walk on the glacier. They set us up with crampons for our boots for our morning hike. It was amazing to be ON the glacier; to hear it moving slowly down from the mountains and see the clear water pooling in the fractures and crevasses. At the end of the trek the guide offered us a glass of whiskey over ice from the glacier. It was one of those moment that will be with you for the rest of your life. Simply amazing!
Our third day we chilled out and took a later afternoon tour of Estancia 25 de Mayo. Manuel picked us up in his 4X4 and the three of us drove south on rough cut dirt roads into the mountains. We stopped along the way to learn about the regions flora and fauna. The landscape is totally different that what we know in the northern hemisphere. The plants that color the high desert landscape give it unique hues and textures. The Estancia (Ranch) has a few hundred cattle that a few gauchos manage but what lives on the land is so much more than just beef. During our tour we saw soaring Vultures & Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, flocks of Reah (kind of like an ostrich), herds of Guanaco (cross between a llama and a camel), a few hare and a gray fox. We were out in the wilderness and it was amazing to see all the wildlife living of such arid surroundings. After the tour Manuel took us to a Gaucho house and fixed us a simple dinner. We learned more about the history of the region and how his family came to own the Estancia. As we departed the house in the pitch black we looked up to see the milky way spanning the entirety of the night sky. All the stars were new to us with the southern cross near the zenith of our view. I was expecting the snow covered mountains to be the focus but a simple tour of a ranch made the experience so much richer.
We toured downtown El Calafate on our last day. We walked the main streets and enjoyed the many shops & cafes. The town is all about the adventure tours so if you love hiking gear this is the place. We also visited the Glaciarium and learned about the science of glacier and saw many exhibits about the region. The Glaciarium also included the Glaciobar; a cross between discotheque and meat locker where we enjoyed drinks served in carved glacier ice at -10°C. They gave us funny capes and gloves to keep us comfortable. All in all it was kind of kitschy. In the evening we enjoyed a special meal at Mi Rancho.